enemy (noun) ˈe-nə-mē one that is antagonistic to another; especially : one seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent
Nobody teaches us how to choose our enemies. In the world of movies and video games, the battle between good and evil wages on and the enemy is obvious, complete with a devilish grin and flashing eyes to warn you when you’ve stepped into danger’s path. In real life, you may be waking up next to your enemy every morning or whispering your darkest secrets to her over cocktails at brunch. Magazines toss the word “frenemy” about casually because really, isn’t it all just friendly competition at the end of the day? We don’t want to believe in enemies, to fathom that someday might actually dislike or perhaps even hate us. “Hate? Such a strong word!” we cry, shaking our heads emphatically and batting our hands about as if to fend off the offending term. This is especially true if we’ve been “good girls” our whole lives, girls who have grown into women who just want to be “liked.” In the bedroom, in the book club, in the boardroom, we just want everybody to “like” us.
We shouldn’t head into the world with the intention of making enemies. But we shouldn’t blithely pretend that we’re immune to them either. What if we stop pretending being universally liked is even possible (even Beyonce probably has enemies) and start embracing our enemies (and the situations that create them) as badges of honor? The angry colleagues as evidence of your strength to be a whistleblower. The bitter ex as the result of your refusal to settle for less than what is rightfully yours. The former friend as a reminder that you deserve to be treated with respect. The distant brother-in-law as proof that you stood up for your sister when he was doing her wrong.
If somebody chooses to be your enemy, maybe your first reaction should be to reflect on what earned you such a notable distinction in their mind, instead of fretting over the fact that somebody doesn’t “like” you.
This post was inspired by the novel The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger. In the novel, young lawyer Sophie unwillingly takes her first divorce case with an entertaining and volatile client and her story is told mostly through letters and legal missives. As a member of From Left to Write, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. Join us on March 18 at From Left to Write to read other reflections inspired by the novel!